LIMA — A man who survived a shooting that killed his friend identified the shooter by a star tattoo on his neck Monday.
That identification by Eric Irons was enough to send the case against 20-year-old Valdis Stapleton Jr. to a grand jury for consideration. Stapleton is charged with murder in the death of 24-year-old Carlton “C.J.” Martin on June 17 and is expected to face more charges.
Irons was the only witness a prosecutor called during Stapleton’s preliminary hearing Monday. The hearing was held to determine if there were enough evidence against Stapleton to possibly link him to the crime and continue the case in the criminal justice system.
Irons, who limped into the courtroom using one crutch, described the terrifying moments that led to the death of his friend and his own wounding. He was with a group of family and friends inside the home at 844 Oak St., preparing to celebrate the release of his stepbrother from prison, when two gunmen approached the house.
His sister-in-law saw the two men outside and alerted a group of people inside, he said.
“Somebody ran into the house and started shooting,” he said.
People inside the small, ranch-style home ran for cover. Irons and Martin ran into a bedroom to hide in the closet. Irons was hit in the hip by a bullet as he ran for his life but made it into the closet. Martin was shot in the arm and the bullet traveled into his chest, Irons said.
Irons described the shooter as a light-skinned black man wearing a mask covering his face except for his eyes. A star tattoo on his neck was exposed, which Irons said he later picked out in a photo lineup.
“I couldn’t see his face but I saw tattoos,” Irons said. “It was a star, the same one I got.”
The shooter followed the two men to the closet and open fired into the closet, Irons said.
“I didn’t know C.J. [Martin] got shot. I didn’t know C.J. was on the ground until after the fact,” he said.
Martin died a short time later, Irons said.
Only one of the two gunmen entered the home, Irons said.